Somerset Apps Library

The Somerset Apps Library project was developed to help people in Somerset with advice and information around their health and wellbeing, by providing a central resource for people to access safe health apps, which work best for them.

The project was launched in January 2022 and will initially run for three years.

Health apps are a great way to get health and mental wellbeing support, helping us to improve our health and live healthier lives.

There are so many apps on the market, it can be hard to know which ones you can trust. Google play and the Apple store are unregulated so people may assume that apps are safe when they are not.

Who is delivering this project?

The project has been funded by NHS England. To develop the site, Somerset CCG teamed up with ORCHA (the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Applications), to create a website which shows health and care related apps (which have been reviewed for data privacy, professional clinical assurance and how usable and accessible they are).

How does it work?

All apps hosted on the Somerset Apps Library have been reviewed by ORCHA (The Organisation for the Review of Health and Care Apps) against clinical effectiveness, data privacy and security and usability and accessibility.  

The library works in two ways:

  • the public can use the website to find apps they want to use
  • we offer fully funded professional licences to health and care professionals across Somerset allowing them to send specific apps to service users via text or email

Working with our stakeholders

Somerset CCG is working with social care, the voluntary sector, primary care and our acute hospitals and community services.  Libraries and digital inclusion organisations are also working with us to encourage those who are currently digitally excluded to be able to access the website.

To develop the website, we worked with;

  • Somerset County Council
  • Somerset Foundation Trust
  • Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • St Margaret’s Hospice
  • 111/OOH service
  • Local Pharmacy Committee
  • Local Medical Committee
  • GP practices
  • SPARK Somerset

We have also presented and discussed this project with the public at meetings through planning and implementation stages including;

  • Patient Participation Groups
  • Digital Peoples Champion Group
  • Somerset Engagement and Advisory Group
  • Colleges and schools, Freshers Fairs, Digital T Level student lectures for feedback from young people
  • Attending countywide events including the End-Of-Life Conference

Key benefits

The library has two key benefits:

  • It protects the public from potentially finding and using unsafe apps on unregulated app stores
  • It protects health and social care organisations in Somerset from promoting potentially unsafe apps to their service users/patients.

Everybody can benefit as there are apps for all ages and for all stages of a person’s health journey.  There are preventative apps, informational apps, some that perform an administrative function, plus those that support people with a long-term conditions or are on a waiting list. 

The apps include;

  • Preventative support (e.g., inhaler technique, stress management, fitness and diet apps)
  • Helping people to help themselves (e.g., diabetes apps, symptom checkers, condition monitoring and mood diaries)
  • Administrative support such as appointment management and service signposting (e.g., NHS App)
  • Delivery of services (e.g., Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and mole checkers)

Key achievements to date

Since going live in January 2002 there have been;

  • 20,000 visits to the web page
  • 100+ pro account licences allocated to health and care staff
  • 100+ recommendations of apps achieved

Working as an ICS and proactive promotional campaigns including using social media, has meant that our figures for uptake and usage are the highest in the whole of the South West rollout so far.

We have also

Next steps

A pilot is currently underway with Frome PCN (Primary Care Network) and the Somerset Leaving Care Service are planning to use this tool to help support those leaving care and young families. 

We also aim to:

  • double the current number of licenses allocated to professionals and double the number of recommendations made for additional apps.
  • achieve 50,000 page visits
  • by the end of the project to have allocated all the professional licenses available to us and have most licence holders regularly recommending apps to service users
  • continue the pilots and develop benefits cases, gather feedback from those using it.
  • link with other ICS to share learning and strategies

What challenges did we face along the way?

Many people use apps to manage their shopping or banking, but they don’t always realise they could support and manage their health in the same way, so we need to be able to promote the benefits of using health apps on an ongoing basis. 

Most people love the concept but for busy health and care staff this involves new ways of thinking and working. We need to invest in staff education about new ways of accessing information about health and care services, as well as continuing to provide information through more traditional means.

It is very much about enhancing rather than replacing traditional channels. We recognise that digital health is not for everybody but it should be available for those that want to use it. 

How was joint working helped to deliver the project?

  • The Frome PCN pilot shares what works well for them so we can roll out and share the learning to other Primary Care Networks.
  • By working with the council and voluntary sector we can support those who are currently digitally excluded.
  • By liaising with our stakeholder organisations who can shae information via their websites and staff newsletters, we can raise awareness and engagement with the public and wider stakeholders

Measuring success

Analysing our data shows that the go live has gained significant traction which we want to build on moving forward.  The outcome is a tool which the public and stakeholders can trust and nurtures the trust that the public have in the NHS and what it delivers.